Sunday, July 09, 2006

Doctor Who - Doomsday

... so the Daleks emerge from the Void Ship and say they'll exterminate everyone, but then Rose talks to them and stops them by making them think that they know more than they're saying. The Daleks have a thing called a Genesis Ark with them which seems to be a big armless Dalek thing. The episode continues with constant flitting back and forth between the Doctor, Jackie and the Cybermen and Rose, Mickey and the Daleks ... all of which is nice on screen, but a total pain to try and write up, so I'm not going to try. The gist is that the Daleks want a time traveller to touch the Genesis Ark to open it. How they knew/thought there would be on Earth in this time and place is beyond me. What if the Doctor, Rose or Mickey had not been there? The Daleks' plans would have been stuffed. And the Cybermen want to convert everyone into Cybermen and somehow the CyberLeader manages to send a transmission to all televisions about this - bloomin powerful this Torchwood place to have the ability to do that. And what would the Cybermen do once everyone has been converted? Live in Cyber-happiness? Anyway, eventually a Dalek encounters two Cybermen (numbers 1065 and 1066) in a corridor. That sounds like the start of a bad joke ... they talk, they transmit pictures of each other, and then the Dalek destroys the Cybermen. I really liked the dialogue here with the cool Black Dalek referring to destroying the Cybermen as 'pest control' and claiming that the Cybermen are superior in only one way to the Daleks ... they are 'better at dying'. Nice stuff. The CyberLeader decides to convert the humans they have captured into Cybermen and so Yvonne and Jackie along with some technician types get hauled off to their doom. The Daleks spot the Doctor on the monitor screen and when Rose IDs him to them, they are scared ... however the Genesis Ark takes up their attention and they apply suckers to it, after sucking all the knowledge about the Earth from poor Rajesh's head. What a way to go. Though why having all your brainwaves drained would either kill you or turn you into a dessicated corpse is anyone's guess. Suddenly, and with a bound, the rest of the Preachers arrive - Jake and his mates from the parallel world. Yvonne goes in to be cyber-converted in a nasty scene, and Jackie is next, but Jake's mates kill the CyberLeader with the Doctor and immediately one of the Cybermen with Jackie is upgraded to Leader status - I liked this idea that if you kill their leaders, another automatically steps in. The distracted Cybermen allow Jackie to escape, and she heads down the fire escape. Conveniently, Jake and co have their own version of Torchwood and have developed travel disks to help them move between dimensions. Very useful indeed. Back there, the Doctor meets Pete Tyler again. This is turning into happy families! All we're missing is Sarah Jane and K9 to come barrelling in and the party would be complete. Things are running along quite nicely now, and returning to 'our' earth, the Doctor brokers a deal with the Cybermen to attack the Daleks. He wanders into the Sphere room (which was sealed before - wonder how they managed to open it) and talks with the Daleks who all are revealed to have names - Thane, Sek, Jast and Karn (spellings uncertain) - and are a special secret Cult of Skaro, Daleks above and beyond the Emperor and who can think how the enemy thinks ... what? All sounds a little convenient to me. And they have this Genesis Ark thing, which is a Time Lord device, activated by touch. Of course no-one would be daft enough to touch it ... would they? Of course not. Except Mickey, naturally, who falls against it during the ensuing battle between Daleks, Cybermen and troops. Silly boy. So the Cybermen are destroyed by the Daleks, the humans retreat and the Genesis Ark is primed. The Daleks head off for more space - 30 square miles seem to be required - and so the Ark and the black Dalek fly into the sky. Meanwhile, Pete and Jackie meet and the action slows to a crawl as they talk and then hug. Sheesh. The Doctor has an idea now though, and reveals that by looking at everyone through 3D glasses he can see 'void stuff' on everything that has crossed through the void. I though the void contained nothing at all ... so what is void stuff? Anyway ... if the Doctor reopens the void breach then everything covered in void stuff will be dragged in. But that would include himself so he appropriates the clamp things we saw in part 1 to hold on to. But Rose wants to stay with him ... cue some more sentimental stuff as she argues with the Doctor and then with Jackie before Pete takes them all back to Alternate Earth and then Rose comes back on her own - there's no stopping this girl. Meanwhile the black Dalek has opened the Genesis Ark and it's not the complete backlist of Phil Collins' band, nor is it Davros ... it's a TARDIS-like thing full of Daleks which all emerge and start attacking the Cybermen. We're now into endgame ... Rose and the Doctor start sorting out the levers and clamps. The Cybermen are converging on them, but are stopped by Cyber-Yvonne who kills them. Seems her conversion was not successful for some reason and she still retains her human voice and can cry oil! This was most rubbish and perhaps the weakest part of the story. So the breach is opened and the Daleks are all dragged into it. Despite being told that the Cybermen were too, we don't see a single one go into the breach. And the black Dalek does an emergency temporal shift (as you do) and vanishes. So he's still around somewhere then. All danger and excitement now, and as we're expecting Rose to die, it's no real surprise when her lever starts to fall back and she has to grab it and push it home again ... but she's lost her hold and is being dragged into the breach and the void ... when Pete conveniently appears at exactly the right time, and standing in exactly the right spot to catch her and take her safely back to his universe. Just in time too as the breach sucks itself in and is gone. Questions here: how did he know to come back? Where to stand? And when? All a little to convenient really. The next scenes are brilliant. The Doctor and Rose. Tears. Each separated from the other forever. I cried. The acting here is the best we have seen from Piper and Tennant. And then we fade to black. But it's not all over. There's a neat coda where Rose dreams the Doctor and she, Pete, Jackie and Mickey travel to Norway to a deserted beach at a place called Bad Wolf Bay. There the Doctor appears for one final time to Rose and they get to say their goodbyes. Rose tells him she loves him, and he appears to do the same, but vanishes words unspoken. The next shot of the Doctor in the TARDIS, tears streaming down his face is the best of all - unspoken emotion and the fact that he has lost his best friend in all the universe (again). But things are afoot. There is suddenly a bride in full bridal gear in the TARDIS console room. She turns and it's Catherine Tate - a somewhat unfunny comedienne whose only decent catchphrase/character is the 'Am I bovvered?' schoolgirl. What!!!!!!! So overall I really enjoyed Doomsday. It was a fitting ending, and although I wanted Rose to die - and come to think of it, something of a wasted opportunity to do some false deaths for her (like the disintegration by the Anne Droid last year) - this was most suitable. The battles between Daleks and Cybermen seemed somewhat one-sided though - shame the Cybermen didn't have some weapon to use against the Daleks - but were a mixture of spectacle and mundaninity. And the story as a whole hung together mostly, with a few hasty elements thrown in. So what's next? Torchwood the series? Set in the Pete Tyler Universe, starring Billie Piper as Rose Tyler (well she said she was working for them)? Stranger things have been known to happen.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Doctor Who - Army of Ghosts

After a couple of weeks of episodes which were perhaps a little ho hum, Army of Ghosts upped the anti significantly and presented an episode which is perhaps the best to date in the series. I adored the opening pre-title sequence, with Rose narrating and the visuals. The planet with the rocks and flying things was awesome, and then to end with the statement: 'This is the story of how I died' was a very brave move indeed I felt. Of course, this is assuming that Rose means 'died' in the way that perhaps many viewers will take it (more on this later). So the Doctor and Rose return 'home' to see Jackie who snogs the Doctor (great reaction from Tennant to that as well) and then tells them that Grandad Prentis is coming - but he died 10 years ago! Seems there are ghosts appearing all over the world (side step: how can Jackie's TV get all those foreign channels?) for short periods of time, and people feel these are the shades of loved ones. However of course the Doctor is suspicious and so sets out to find out what these things really are. In a lovely moment he 'Ghostbusters' himself up with a TARDIS-themed bit of kit and traces the origin of one of the Ghosts. However, we the viewers know already that they're being controlled from Torchwood, a scientific/military place apparently run by Yvonne Hartmann who has scary teeth and even scarier cleavage. Aside from the ghosts, there's also a large mystery-sphere hanging in another room which seems to not exist. Office romance is blossoming between the cute Adele Oshoodi and Gareth Evans, but when they nip away for a snog, they are captured by Cybermen! Not really what they were expecting, and how on earth did a group of Cybermen set up a secret base in building works in Torchwood Tower in the first place! I'm not impressed with their security arrangements to be honest. These sequences are, however, magnificently directed and the music is awesome. Finally Murray Gold is being held in check. Less is definately more. While the Doctor is messing about trying to track the Ghosts, Jackie and Rose have a chat. Now this might be me, and I may be reading too much into it, but the gist seemed to be that Rose was no longer the Rose that Jackie knew, and that in the future, the person calling herself 'Rose' would be a totally different person, older and not even human any more. Now this could be Russell signalling that 'the story of how I died' is actually of Rose dying as 'Rose' and becoming someone else ... or it could be that she really is going to die ... we shall see next week. Anyway, the Doctor's fiddling alerts Torchwood and they see the TARDIS dematerialise on CCTV footage. The Doctor, having traced the signal, arrives at Torchwood only to be captured by the grinning Yvonne and her clappy happy soldiers. The Doctor drags Jackie from the TARDIS and introduces her as Rose (another instance/clue that Rose isn't Rose any more perhaps?) and they go off on a guided tour of Torchwood Tower in London's Docklands. As a side issue here, where is UNIT? No-one mentions them and yet they were investigating and fighting alien menaces for years before - they even appeared in The Christmas Invasion and yet here there's another organisation apparently doing the same thing that they did. Meanwhile Adele is back seeming a little blank, and she takes another co-worker, Matt, off for snogging. He is maybe expecting some action from Adele, but instead he gets to meet the Cybermen and their cutting machines (seriously ... no-one noticed all this happening in the building works?). So Rose leaves the TARDIS when it has been left in storage and, donning a fetching lab coat, heads off to explore. Of course she finds the Sphere Room where she is promptly captured. However one of the workers there - Samuel - looks familiar. It's Mickey! To be honest, I was actually really pleased to see him, and it raised a smile. We now start to head towards the episode ending. Adele, Matt and Gareth are all Cyber-controlled and start up another Ghost Shift, despite Yvonne ordering it cancelled. The Doctor realises what's happening and tries to find the transmitter controlling them - it's in the building area, and before you can blink, everyone is captured by Cybermen who have cool new guns in their arms. There's also a CyberLeader (with black 'ear' handles) and he orders Ghost Shift to 100%. It seems that all the ghosts are actually Cybermen who are taking over the Earth, coming through the dimensional instability caused by the Sphere's arrival. At the same time, the Sphere activates and starts to gain mass and reality - Rose, Mickey and the technician Rajesh Singh, watch as it starts to open ... but what's in the Sphere? The CyberLeader admits to our horror that the Sphere is nothing to do with the Cybermen, they just followed it ... And then ... And then ... Oh my giddy aunt! The Sphere opens and it's only a bunch of bloomin Daleks that emerge, flying down. Gold ones and a really cool new black one ... and it's 'EXTERMINATE!!!' and crash into the closing credits. Awesome. I was so, so impressed by this episode. Wonderful direction, faultless acting (with the exception perhaps of Adele as she was trying to figure out where Gareth had gone), great lighting, good ideas, brilliant use of music, and the coolest monsters. All in all next week will have to go some to top this. But. But I hope. I so hope. Please Russell ... no deux ex machina - no Rose looking into the heart of the TARDIS again and destroying everyone with a blink - no Doctor pulling some gizmo from his pocket which solves everything - no cop out. For once we seem to have a plot, a real plot. And proper characters. I want to cry next week. I want Rose to go in a blaze of glory. I want Cybermen and Daleks. I want adventure and excitement. Explosions and danger. 6 Days is too long to wait.